Monday, 16 November 2015

Robin Fawcett On Complement Vs Adjunct

  • It’s been read by everyone  
  • Ivy handed the vase to Peter.
My position (like that of a good many other SFL scholars) was (and is) that the referents of the nominal groups within these are Participant Roles rather than Circumstantial Roles (since they are explicitly ‘predicted’ by the Process), and that the underlined portions should therefore, in a functional analysis, be treated as Complements rather than Adjuncts. 
… for me the formal evidence of the presence of a preposition was weaker than the functional evidence that if Peter in Peter was handed the vase by Ivy is a PR, Peter in Ivy handed the vase to Peter is a PR too, this being evidence for treating to Peter as a Complement.) 
My point is not to try to persuade you that I was right

Blogger Comments:

[1] In SFL theory, where meaning is immanent rather than transcendent, participants such as Senser and Actor are not referents of nominal groups, but functions of nominal groups at clause rank.

[2] In SFL theory, nominal groups within prepositional phrases are designated as indirect participants (Halliday and Matthiessen 2004: 261).  No-one who understands SFL theory would argue that these nominal groups serve as circumstances.

[3] The underlined portions are not nominal groups; they are prepositional phrases.  (Fawcett's argument about the function of nominal groups is here used to justify a claim about the function of prepositional phrases.)  The nominal groups within the prepositional phrases do function as Complements, but at group/phrase rank, not clause rank.  Each serves as Complement of its minor Predicator.

minor Predicator

minor Predicator

Fawcett assumes, without providing any supporting argument, that an experiential participant should be treated as interpersonal Complement and that an experiential circumstance should be treated as interpersonal Adjunct.  However, the criteria for determining interpersonal Complement and Adjunct are not experiential but interpersonal.  Halliday and Matthiessen (2004: 122-3):
A Complement is an element within the Residue that has the potential of being Subject but is not; in other words, it is an element that has the potential for being given the interpersonally elevated status of modal responsibility — something that can be the nub of the argument. …
An Adjunct is an element that has not got the potential of being Subject; that is, it cannot be elevated to the interpersonal status of modal responsibility.
In Fawcett's examples, neither by everyone nor to Peter has the potential of being Subject, and so both are Adjuncts, not Complements.  What does have the potential of being Subject is the Complement within each of these prepositional phrases: everyone and Peter.

The motivation for realising Agent, Beneficiary or Range as a prepositional phrase is textual.  Halliday and Matthiessen (2004: 295-6):
… the choice of ‘plus or minus preposition’ with Agent, Beneficiary and Range … serves a textual function. … The principle is as follows. If a participant other than the Medium is in a place of prominence in the message, it tends to take a preposition (i.e. to be construed as ‘indirect’ participant); otherwise it does not. Prominence in the message means functioning either (i) as marked Theme (i.e. Theme but not Subject) or (ii) as ‘late news’ — that is, occurring after some other participant, or circumstance, that already follows the Process. In other words, prominence comes from occurring either earlier or later than expected in the clause; and it is this that is being reinforced by the presence of the preposition. The preposition has become a signal of special status in the message.
See clause transitivity and mood analyses here.
See also previous argumentation here.
See further on indirect participants here.

[4] Fawcett posted this on the sysfling list after the person he was arguing with had died and could no longer put his case.  As this post demonstrates, it was the man who can no longer defend himself that better understood SFL theory and the reasoning behind its categories.